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5 Alternatives to Barbell Back Squats for Adults Over 40

Let me be super clear about this: barbells aren't bad. They do, however, have diminishing returns. What I mean by diminishing returns is that your reward is not as high as the work you’re putting in. Barbell back squatting is a great exercise for those who have the mobility & strength to place themselves under the bar.

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Another reason to use this exercise is for those who are participating in a sport-specific event that requires a barbell like Olympic lifting or power lifting. Outside of that, there are plenty of other ways to train this movement without a barbell.


Before I talk about the exercises you can do instead, let me explain why I believe that the barbell back squat isn’t the best choice for adults over 40.


High Risk, Low Reward


Do you want to get results or do you want to inflate your ego?

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You can get better and safer results for your goals without having to do a barbell back squat. If you don’t have the proper mobility and stability required to back-squat, you’re initially going to be placing yourself at higher risk of injury just to feed your ego with an exercise you’re emotionally attached to. Once you can let go of attachment to an exercise, you allow yourself to let new exercises in that are better suited for you and your goals.


Lack of Prerequisites Met


Many people need a lot of mobility and stability in their ankles, hips, wrists, and shoulders to get themselves under the bar.

Now can most people get in a back-squat position, yes, but should they? Probably not, because they are forcing themselves to get into the position rather than the body being able to naturally get into the position. If you aren’t mobile or stable enough to do this exercise you will be loading on a faulty foundation which can lead to further movement dysfunction and potential risk of injury.


Spinal Loading


After age 30, the spine begins to change, meaning the discs begin to degenerate which is a natural thing. Barbells are considered a fixed weight which means that there’s little to no room to adjust your body to the tool. Kettlebells and sandbags allow for the user to have better mechanics that work for their structure, not forcing or compressing you into a position where the spine might be compromised. After 30 we want to begin to limit the amount of spinal loading we are doing because of the nature of discs degenerating.


Back-squat Alternatives


Press Out Squat

I personally prefer to use 10lb plate for this exercise. The press out squat allows for you to help get your core to fire to assist with keeping you more upright in the bottom position of your squat. This is where most of our members start and they are able to profess to other variations of the squat. Your foundation is everything, if you are trying to build a house you need to have the right land to support the foundation of it, same thing applies for your ability to squat.


Banded Squat to Row

Squat to row combines to exercises together to get more muscles involved in the exercise. The main movement we are training is the squat, we add in the row at the top to add in greater intensity because you are now also having the back muscles be active in the movement.


Goblet Squat

Goblet squatting is the next progression you can use to continue building a stronger foundation with your squat. This is our first introduction to load aka weight. The kettlebell is placed in the goblet position which is slightly away from the body. This lets you have some counter balance like the press out squat, but now the weight is heavier and smaller.


USB FL Squat

Sandbags have the unique ability to challenge the greater stabilizing muscles in our body because of the weight being unstable. Using the sandbags is a great tool because you are helping your body build strength and stability at the same time.


KB Front Squat

The kettlebell front squat is a great core and lower body exercise because of the placement of the bells. You’re now loading the front of the body with some relatively heavy weights. The loading position is pull you forward which you will be resisting by keeping yourself tall. This then will work the core in greater than the barbell back-squat because of the weight being loaded in front.



In summary, there are dozens of ways to squat. Don’t force a square peg into a round hole when it comes to your training. You’re allowed to do different exercises and find the one that is best suited for you and your goals.


If you want to learn more about how we can help you achieve your fitness goals today, send us an email to set up your consultation!








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